Santa Fe, who’s original name was La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís, was founded by Spanish Catholics and that influence remain strong. Christmas here is loaded with beloved traditions making this one of the best times of year to visit The City Different! Santa Fe Christmas events start with the tree lighting in the historic Santa Fe Plaza the day after Thanksgiving.
We’ll start this month’s Tidbits with holiday-related events and then do a section on regular events.
Santa Fe Christmas Events
Christmas kicks off with the annual tree lighting in the Santa Fe Plaza on Friday, November 25th at 6pm. Events, including Santa arriving on a vintage fire truck begin at 3pm.
Santa Fe Botanical Garden’s annual GLOW – A Winter Lights Event in the Garden, lights up on Friday, December 16th. The gardens, including the newest one, Ojos y Manos, will glisten with thousands of fairy lights. Have a drink as you warm yourself by the fire, enjoy a bit of food and listen to both traditional and “untraditional” music. Thrill to a laser light show every evening. You can visit GLOW nightly from 5 to 8pm (last entry at 7:30) through January 1, 2015. They’ll be closed on December 24th and 25th. Don’t miss the GLOW Preview event on Wednesday, December 7th from 5:30 to 7:30pm, advance tickets required for this event. You can purchase GLOW tickets on their website or at the gate. Information about tickets, the music schedule and Santa’s appearances is available on their website.
Three beloved Santa Fe Christmas events: Las Posadas, Christmas at the Palace and New Mexico Museum of Art’s Annual Open House are sponsored by the Museum of New Mexico.
Christmas at the Palace
Christmas at the Palace takes place on Friday, December 9th at the Palace of the Governors (the oldest government building in continuous use in the USA), part of the New Mexico History Museum, from 5:30 to 8pm. This event, popular with locals, started in 1985, is always held on the Friday before Las Posadas (see below). The historic building is all lit up and decorated for the holidays. Wander through and enjoy live music, craft-making activities, the chance to operate an old fashioned printing press, festive decorations and to check out the historic palace. The courtyard is ablaze with farolitos (paper bags filled with sand and topped with a candle) and luminarias (piñon wood bonfires). Cider and biscochitos (the New Mexico State Cookie) will be served. Children can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus. You’ll even find seasonally-themed piñatas hanging, befitting the city’s Mexican heritage. This event is a winner for the entire family. Admission is free.
Las Posadas is a reenactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for a room in Bethlehem. The candle-lit procession will be on Sunday, December 11th at 5:30 to 7pm. The procession assembles on the Washington Avenue side of the Palace of the Governors. Joseph and Mary and their followers wend their way around the Plaza, picking up more people along the way. The holy couple stops at an “inn.” All of a sudden the devil pops out of the darkness in a flash of light. He gestures menacingly at the couple and their followers while screaming curses at them in 16th century Spanish. The crowd responds with loud boos. This ritual repeats on each side of the Plaza culminating in the Palace’s courtyard where you can warm up with hot cider and biscochitos and around merrily crackling luminarias.
New Mexico Museum of Art’s Annual Open House
The Annual Open House at the New Mexico Museum of Art on Sunday, December 18th from 1 to 4pm is a popular family event. View replicas of famed Santa Fe artist Gustave Baumann’s hand-carved marionettes created in the 1930s for his daughter. Baumann’s cast of puppets is featured in A Party for Papa Gus, a half-hour puppet show where Juan, Rosina, and Miguelito try very hard to get ready for a party with interference from Warts, “the rascally duende with a heart of gold.” Shows are at 1 and 2:30pm. Kids can search for Freckles (Warts’ twin brother) who will be hiding in the museum’s galleries. There will be clues leading searchers from one place to the next. Kids who find Freckles will win a prize. From 2 to 2:30 and 3 to 3:30pm, in a role reversal, the Baumann puppet Santa will sit on kid’s laps listening to their wishes and dreams as their parents snap away. Kids can make their own stick puppets throughout the afternoon and even perform with them at the Puppet Theater Playhouse. Holiday music will fill the air and refreshments will be served. Admission is free.
Canyon Road Christmas Eve Farolito Walk
Canyon Road Christmas Eve Farolito Walk is a beloved Santa Fe Tradition, albeit a recent one, starting in the 1970s. The street, closed to traffic at 5pm, is jam-packed with tens of thousands of people out to celebrate this festive night. The big draw: thousands of farolitos (sand-filled paper bags topped with candles), luminarias (small piñon wood bonfires) and fauxlitos (strings of electrified plastic farolitos), symbolically lighting the way for the birth of the Christ Child. It’s fun to watch revelers walking up and down the road greeting friends, sometimes spontaneously breaking into Christmas carols. Some people even deck themselves in costumes, flashing lights or tinkling bells. Some stop to warm their hands at a luminaria or grab a hot drink to take the chill away. When it snows the night becomes even more magical. Dress warmly and enjoy the fun.
Midnight Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis de Assisi
This is THE place for Midnight Mass. Remember, it’s a Catholic city. Doors open at 10pm Christmas carols help pass the time until Mass. Arrive early; the church fills up quickly. By Midnight, there is nary a seat in the house. The interior of the beautiful Romanesque cathedral merges the traditions of Catholicism with the traditions of New Mexico. It is a special place to end Christmas Eve and welcome Christmas Day.
Most of Santa Fe closes up on Christmas. Some restaurants are open; reservations are strongly suggested if they’re accepted. Ski Santa Fe is open, you can hike or snowshoe or catch a movie. Our top suggestion is to take advantage something that is uniquely New Mexican: attend a pueblo dance. On both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day some of the Northern New Mexico pueblos host traditional dances. Click here for a listing of the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dances at the Eight Northern Pueblos. The schedule can change. Check with the pueblo the week before to make sure they’re having the dances. Know that the pueblos can cancel dances at the last minute for a death or other reason.
On Christmas Day, the Santa Fe Jewish Film Festival upholds an informal Jewish tradition; movies followed by Chinese food on Christmas Day. This is the third year of Flix and Chop Sticks: movies and Chinese food. They’ll screen two films: Everything is Copy, an HBO documentary about the late, great Nora Ephron made by her filmmaker son. The second film is one of Ephron’s iconic films which will be chosen by voters in an email survey. My pick? When Harry Met Sally, one of my all-time favorite films.
Holiday music and dance
The Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra and Chorus present Carols & Choruses on Friday, December 2nd at 7pm at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. The event, conducted by Choral Director Dr. Linda Raney, will feature classic Christmas carols. Admission is free.
The Symphony will also present Christmas Treasures on Sunday, December 11th at 4pm at The Lensic Performing Arts Center. Guest Conductor David Felberg will lead the Symphony. The program will include Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, selections from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite, Faith’s Brazilian Sleigh Bells, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas and Anderson’s A Christmas Festival. Felberg will present a pre-concert lecture at 3pm. Tickets, $22 to $80, (half-price tickets for children ages 6 to 14 with adult purchase) are available at both the Symphony and Lensic box offices and online at Tickets Santa Fe*.
Desert Chorale will present six performances of Northern Light: Carols and Lullabies From around the World, between December 16th and 23rd. The complete schedule on oh their website.
It’s Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s 20th anniversary season. The 2016 performances of the beloved The Nutcracker will be on Saturday, December 17th at 2 and 7:30pm and on Sunday, December 18th at 1 and 5pm. The magical performance, featuring “hundreds of young dancers” from the School of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet along with professional dancers, combines ballet, flamenco, a Chinese ribbon dance, and even an aerialist and other circus artists. Tickets, $25 to $94, are available at the Lensic box office and online at Tickets Santa Fe*.
Santa Fe Pro Musica presents A Baroque Christmas twice nightly at the Loretto Chapel starting Monday, December 19th and continuing through Christmas Eve. Concerts start at 6 and 8pm. Ticketing information is on their website.
Santa Fe Women’s Ensemble presents The Dawning Light, traditional songs and poems of the Inuit-Yupik in English between Friday, December 9th and Saturday, December 17th at several venues. Full schedule and ticketing information is on their website.
Performance Santa Fe always presents concerts on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. They offer Family Concerts both days at 1pm and an evening performance at 5pm. This year their Christmas Eve concert features pianist Claire Huangci in an all-Russian program of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2. New Year’s Eve brings Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. You’ll find more information on these concerts can be found on their website.
Other holiday events
Winter Solstice Celebration
The Santa Fe Children’s Museum is holding an early Winter Solstice event on Sunday, December 18th from 5:30 to 7:30pm. They’ll celebrate the upcoming longest night of the year with bonfires, African drumming, storytelling and a labyrinth of farolitos. They’ll be roasting marshmallows over the fire and baking biscochitos in their horno which can be enjoyed with a cup of hot chocolate. Admission is $3 for members and $5 for non-members.
Community Menorah Lighting
The Community Menorah Lighting takes place on Sunday, December 25th at 3pm at the Santa Fe Plaza. The ninety minute event, beginning at 3pm includes speakers, holiday treats such as doughnuts, latkes, Chanukah gelt, and entertainment. There will be a lighting ceremony every evening through December 31st at 4:30pm. The giant, contemporary menorah was made by Israeli sculptor Ilan Ashkenazi, now a Santa Fe resident.
New Year’s Eve on the Plaza
Ring in the New Year with the city of Santa Fe at New Year’s Eve on the Plaza. The alcohol-free event, at Santa Fe’s historic Plaza, begins at 9:30pm running until 12:15pm. Rock to the sounds of live music from local favorites Sol Fire and Nosotros, enjoy hot chocolate and biscochitos courtesy of the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe. Merrily burning luminarias (bon fires) will scent the air with the heady aroma of piñon. At the stroke of midnight a new tin Zia symbol, crafted by a traditional Spanish colonial artisan, will instead be raised accompanied by fireworks and the sounds of Auld Lang Syne.
Holiday art events
Recycle Santa Fe
Recycle Santa Fe Festival, one of our favorite events of the year will be at the Santa Fe Convention Center from Friday, December 2nd from 5 to 9pm; Saturday, December 3rd from 9am to 5pm and Sunday, December 4th from 10am to 5pm. Artists working with recycled materials offer their work for sale. Items, which have to be made from at least 75% recycled materials, include household items, fiber art, sculptures and jewelry. It’s interesting to see what creative ways artists can come up with to use discarded materials. One of the highlights of the weekend is the Friday evening Trash Fashion & Costume Contest, a fun fashion show. Entrants design and model their creations which showcase amazing uses for trash. Admission on Friday night is $5, children under 12 are free. Tickets to the fashion show are from $15 to $20 and can be purchased online at Tickets Santa Fe (see link above at the bottom of the holiday music section. Admission is free on Saturday and Sunday.
Eldorado Holiday Showcase
Eldorado, a vital residential area southeast of Santa Fe (with a Santa Fe Zip Code), is home to many creative people. The annual Eldorado Arts and Crafts Association’s Holiday Art Showcase and Sale will take place at the Agora Shopping Center on Avenida Vista Grande, on Saturday, December 10th from 10am to 4pm. A wide range of mediums from 36 artists will be for sale including painting, jewelry, ceramics, textile, folk art, photography, jewelry and accessories.
SWAIA Winter Market
The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) has changed the dates for their Winter Market, traditionally held over Thanksgiving Weekend. The 2016 Winter Indian Market will be held at the historic La Fonda on the Plaza on Friday, December 16th from 6 to 9pm, Saturday, December 17th from 9am to 5pm and Sunday, December 18th from 10am to 3pm. Tickets for the Special Opening Celebration (which include access for the rest of the weekend) are $50. Admission on Saturday and Sunday is $10 or you can buy a pass for both days for $15. The juried show features 135 SWAIA artists offering a wide range of artwork for sale including jewelry, pottery and Christmas ornaments.
Non-holiday happenings and news
Santa Fe dining news
He didn’t get Chopped
A big shout-out to Santa Fe Chef Fernando Ruiz who recently won the top prize on the 400th episode of Food Network’s Chopped, which aired on November 1st. I’ve known him since he was sous chef at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi almost a decade ago. He’s come a long way! Now the Executive Chef at Santacafe, his is a real Horatio Alger story; we’ll be featuring him in an upcoming Food Thoughts post.
New eateries in town
Three new eateries opened in November
Café Sonder, 326 South Guadalupe, in the digs inhabited by the Zia Diner for years, is owned by the Razatos family who have owned and run the Plaza Café since 1947. The new café’s menu is focused on locally grown and produced food.
Tesuque’s El Nido was a Santa Fe institution and was greatly missed when it closed several years ago. It’s back, sort of. The original was mostly a steakhouse. The new version opened by Chef Enrique Guerrero, a man with a long Santa Fe resume will serve an Italian menu. The Mexican-born chef, owner of the Bang Bite food truck, has owned and cooked in Italian restaurants in the past and is comfortable with the cuisine. What makes the new El Nido unique is the kitchen is fueled by wood with a wood-fired grill, oven and rotisserie.
Milad Persian Bistro, 802 Canyon Road, opened in early November. Owner Neema Sadeghi, who has a background in cooking, came to Santa Fe from DC three years ago. When asked why he opened the restaurant he said he felt that Santa Fe needed good Persian food. He’s using old family recipes and original ones he’s come up with over the years. “Persian food is very unique, it’s healthy and the food really reflects the region. Flavors are bold but not spic,” he shared. They’re open Tuesday through Sunday serving lunch and dinner.
Santa Fe art
photo-eye Gallery opens an exhibition of photos of vintage motel signs by Steve Fitch at their Bookstore + Project Space at 376 Garcia Street on Saturday, December 10th. The show celebrates his newly released monograph American Motel Signs 1980–2008. The artist will be at the gallery from 3 to 5pm to sign his book. The show runs through Saturday January 21st, 2017.
Beals & Co. Showroom, 830 Canyon Road, will present Beneath the Saddle, a solo show of photographs by Taos photographer Bri Cimino. The show opens with an artist’s reception on Saturday, December 17th from 5 to7. The show features new photos illuminating the relationship between people and horses. Chimino shot all the photos while on horseback. Cimino will be at the gallery during the annual Canyon Road Christmas Eve Walk on December 24th from 5 to 8pm.
That’s it for this month. Hope you can enjoy the many Santa Fe Christmas events in person. If not. there’s always next year. Start planning now! Tidbits will be back on the last Tuesday in January.
We wish you a happy holiday no matter what you celebrate and where you celebrate it. And wishing you a Happy, healthy and prosperous 2017!
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